The Chevron Enjoy Science Newsletter – Issue No. 1

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Issue No. 1, August 10 2015

Chevron Enjoy Science Project Launch

Recent Project Activities

The Enjoy Science Special STEM Thailand Forum on TVET

Guest Columnist: Khunying Kasama Varavarn

STEM Education News

Upcoming Events


Chevron Enjoy Science Project News

At the launch of the Chevron Enjoy Science Project, from left to right: Mr. Piyabutr Cholvijarn, President of the Kenan Institute Asia; Dr. Teerakiat Jareonsettasin, Assistant to the Minister of Education; Mr. Anand Panyarachun, Thailand’s Former Prime Minister; Mr. Brad Middleton, Managing Director, Chevron Asia South, Ltd.; Dr. Pichet Durongkaveroj, Minister of Science and Technology; Mr. Pairoj Kaweeyanun, President, Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production, Ltd.

Chevron Enjoy Science Project Launch

Officially launched on April 3rd, 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand, the Chevron Enjoy Science Project kicked off with a major launch event that brought together Thailand’s leading government representatives, the private sector, and education experts, and signaled a new direction forward for education services delivery. Developed through extensive analysis and stakeholder engagement, the five-year, US $30 million Chevron Enjoy Science Project brings together nine strategic partners to sustainably upgrade Thailand’s competiveness and innovation by improving the country’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and TVET (technical vocational education and training).

Funded by Chevron, the Enjoy Science Project’s lead implementer is the Kenan Institute Asia, and main project partners include: the Ministry of Science and Technology’s National Science Technology and Innovation Policy Office (STI), the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), and the National Science Museum (NSM); the Ministry of Education’s Office of Basic Education Commission (OBEC), Office of Vocational Education Commission (OVEC), and the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST); and the Ministry of Labour’s Department of Skills Development (DSD). Senior representatives for all nine organizations signed a MOU for cooperation on the project, witnessed by Mr. Anand Panyarachun, former Prime Minister of Thailand and Kenan’s Founding and Honorary Chairman.

Speaking at the kick off, Mr. Pairoj Kaweeyanun, President of Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production, Ltd., described “the necessity of education for developing Thailand’s economy and society, especially for science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, and transforming Thailand into a real digital economy.” He stressed that the cooperative nature of the Enjoy Science Project will bring together the public, private, and education sectors to develop teachers, students, and school administrators.

Echoing those statements, H.E. Dr. Pichet Durongkaveroj, the Minister of Science and Technology, said that “the Chevron-Enjoy Science Project’s objectives align with [the Ministry’s] plan to develop human capacities through public-private partnerships in order to respond to the demands of any industry.” The Enjoy Science Project will in fact be a critical element in helping Thailand transition towards an innovation-driven economy, rather than a labor-based economy.

To accomplish this, the Enjoy Science Project will bring together three distinct, but integrated components. The first component will focus on STEM capacity building for teachers, students, and administrators at the 7th-9th grade level. The second component will develop and promote a private sector partnership platform for TVET, in order to implement new curriculums, mentor students, provide internships, and secure well-paying jobs for graduates. Component three, centered on raising awareness and partnership building, will demonstrate to parents, students, and society the importance of STEM education, not only for Thailand’s competiveness, but also to encourage students to pursue good-paying careers in technical fields.

Recent Project Activities

Science and Math Teacher Professional Development

Science and math teachers develop their skills through trainings on implementing practical, inquiry-based lessons.Girls participating in a Chevron Enjoy Science STEM Caravan in Samut Prakan.

Since beginning in April, 2015, the Chevron Enjoy Science Project has conducted three STEM Roll Out Trainings across the country: in Samut Prakan (April, 28-30), Khon Kean (May, 5-7), and Songkhla (May, 5-7). Experts from the Teachers College of Columbia University and the Enjoy Science Project trained 230 math and 251 science teachers from OBEC schools on utilizing inquiry based learning to teach lower secondary school students about different scientific and mathematical concepts, such as matter, energy, motion, and machine mechanics. These practical, real-life teaching methods have already impacted classrooms, improving student participation and quality of learning.

Principal Leadership Workshops

Principals learn about fostering educational development and encouraging high student outcomes within their own schools.

Bringing Principal Leadership Workshops to Samut Prakan, Khon Kean, and Songkhla during April and May, the Enjoy Science Project impacted 392 school administrators and teachers from 189 OBEC schools. Kenan education experts were joined by Professor Tom Corcoran, co-director of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE), Teachers College, Columbia University, to train participants on high-impact inquiry-based education practices and how to foster educational development within their schools. As Natcha Yodyot, Vice Principal of Salud Temple School, Samut Prakan, said, “this workshop helped me understand how to support my teachers in reaching the highest possible student outcomes through inquiry-based learning.”

STEM Caravans in Khon Kean and Samut Prakan

Students participating in an interactive science experiement during a STEM Caravan in Samut Prakan

Working in partnership with the National Science Museum (NSM), the Enjoy Science team supported the NSM STEM Caravans in Khon Kean on June, 8-9 and 11-12 and Samut Prakan July, 2-3. The STEM Caravans used fun science exhibitions and interactive tools to engage young students and promote science and math. In total, 2,292 students from 109 schools in the two provinces participated in the Enjoy Science sponsored inquiry-based science demonstrations during the STEM Caravans.

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Chevron Enjoy Science Project News

The Enjoy Science Special STEM Thailand Forum on TVET

Dato Haji Baharudin Haji Abdullah, Executive Director for Sarawak Skills Development Centre (SSDC), Malaysia, and Ms. Amber Schaub, Director of Global STEM Alliance Programs, New York Academy of Sciences, USA talk about the importance of STEM in TVET.

In one of its first major public events on TVET education, the Chevron Enjoy Science project held a Special STEM Thailand Forum on July 6th, 2015 to discuss improving Thailand’s current TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) system and enhancing the role of the private sector in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)-related TVET education.

Hosted by the Ministry of Science and Technology’s National Science Technology and Innovation Policy Office (STI), with support from Kenan Institute Asia, as part of the Chevron Enjoy Science project, the forum brought together 122 policymakers, government officials, TVET experts, and private sector stakeholders, to share their industry and country-specific experiences on developing TVET programs.

Speaking at the start of the forum, H.E. Dr. Pichet Durongkaveroj, Minister of Science and Technology, highlighted Thailand’s present efforts to improve access to TVET for young students. He also identified four main points that would help to immediately improve the country’s TVET: public-private partnerships, innovative thinking about STEM education, public acceptance and understanding of TVET, and increased international cooperation.

The first session of the Forum featured four Thai speakers, including both government officials and private-sector stakeholders. Talking on a range of subjects, they nonetheless all singled out public-private partnerships as one of the most critical methods for better integrating improved STEM education into TVET programs.

Calling public-private partnerships an essential element for increasing Thailand’s overall competitiveness, M.L. Puntrik Simit, Director General of the Department of Skills Development, talked about the need to connect industry demands with skilled workers. “To set relevant TVET standards, businesses must work with both the government and the training institutions that can respond directly to their demands,” he said.

Additionally, private sector stakeholders, like Dr. Sampan Silapanad, Vice President of Western Digital (Thailand) Co., Ltd., spoke about the critical need to retain skilled employees within Thailand who can go on to innovate the country. Such realizations have already driven a number of Thai firms to pursue TVET programs, he said, however, more can be done. In particular, there is a need for a nation-wide strategy that develops TVET standards in coordination with private sector input.

During the second session, international experts shared their experiences implementing TVET programs in their own countries. Mr. Rob Stowell, a Consultant at the Chisholm Institute, Australia, talked about Australia’s three core vocational education elements: national standards agreed to by 90% of relevant industries, TVET providers who can customize trainings for different individuals and industries, and improved access for students to enter TVET programs.

Mr. Stowell stressed that TVET should not stop at a certain age. “When we think about training, we should not just be thinking about young people, we also need to be thinking about people in the existing workforces,” he said.

Ms. Amber Schaub, Director of Global STEM Alliance Programs, New York Academy of Sciences, USA, also shared some of the U.S.’s current TVET strategies with participants. “The [current U.S.] government initiative is to make sure that we have a problem-based learning system in schools, where children are working on real-life scenarios and developing a mindset not only in terms of contexts, but also in critical thinking.” Such critical thinking methodology will need to be at the core of any TVET program that seeks to train skilled, productive, and innovative workers.

The Special STEM Thailand Forum was the first in a number of forums and round tables that have been planned as part of the Chevron Enjoy Science project, which works to improve Thailand’s STEM education, develop its TVET programs, and raise awareness about STEM and TVET nationwide.

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Guest Columnist

The Urgent Need for Expanding the Reach and Scope of Science Education

Khunying Kasama Varavarn, Executive Board Member, National Research Council, and former Secretary General of the Office of Basic Education Commission

Scientific research and exploration are the best tools we have to discover cutting-edge technologies, invent powerful new products, and help Thailand’s industries innovate. To fully realize such developments, however, we must first improve the quality and access of science education for all, and work to make science and scientific discovery a part of everyday life. This is especially true for students, who need to learn the joys of science and its importance to everyday life at an early age.

In an exhibition at Somdej Phra Panwassa Museum, Wang Sra Phratum, His Majesty the King’s toys from his childhood were on display, revealing the close link between his ideas for development and his vision of a sufficiency economy. It is clear these ideas were inspired by his interaction with nature and how he was encouraged to build his own toys from discarded materials.

Unfortunately, in an attempt to provide inclusive quality education, we have overlooked the wealth of learning resources still abundant in all Thai communities and confined learning mainly to academic classroom activities. Such a system ignores the fact that science is the area most conducive to linking learning and everyday life. If such a process can start at a very young age, we can enhance the joy of learning and discovery in our students and help them on the journey to become lifelong learners and innovators.

From my own experiences, I have witnessed young learners develop an interest in and understanding of scientific concepts through play and integration with everyday life activities. That is why I am passionate about encouraging parents and communities to join with teachers in raising awareness of the value of science and to help fulfill the goal of science for all.

With this in mind, I am pleased to support the Chevron Enjoy Science Project, which was designed as a comprehensive program to improve Thailand’s science teaching pedagogy using an inquiry-based learning methodology, which better engages students in the classroom by drawing lessons from everyday life and applying them to scientific experimentation in the classroom.In the first three months of the project, more than 740 science teachers at almost 200 schools have received professional development training to improve their teaching skills and learn how to adopt modern pedagogies.

Projects like the Chevron Enjoy Science Project are an important part of the process.But everyone must work together to help raise awareness of the importance of science education and its role in everyday life, while our policy makers must help ensure that the quality and the reach of Thailand’s science education system meets the challenges of tomorrow. Not only is this essential for our young generation, it is a critical step towards establishing a more prosperous, innovative, and highly-skilled country.

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STEM Education News

The Case for Strengthening STEM Education for Girls and Women in Asia

Girls participating in a Chevron Enjoy Science STEM Caravan in Samut Prakan.

While the proportion of women to men enrolled in higher education worldwide continues to trend toward balance, women still make up only 30% of the global STEM research workforce. In Asia, those numbers drop even lower, especially in the hard science fields like mathematics, engineering, and software development. Only 16% of the countries in Asia have an equal or above-equal proportion of women working in STEM-related fields.

These figures, based on a recent study by UNESCO’s Asia and Pacific regional bureau, confirm that gender differences in education and learning achievement continue to contribute to the low number of women represented in STEM-based careers in Asia.

The report, A Complex Formula: Girls and Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in Asia, looked at case studies from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, South Korea, and Vietnam. It determined a complex set of factors that can inhibit girls from pursuing further STEM education. These ranged from social issues, such as anxiety, to a lack of female STEM role models, to learning materials and lesson plans that can actually worsen gender stereotypes.

Gender disparities in STEM-related fields across Asia were greatest in the hard sciences, such as computer science, physics, and engineering. By contrast, women were much more likely to study and pursue careers in the life sciences, like chemistry, biology, and medicine. These differences may reflect the social and labor force trends in countries where the hard sciences have long been traditionally male-dominated fields.

Additionally, the UNESCO study found that as education levels increased, the percentage of women studying STEM-related subjects dropped. In other words, the proportion of women receiving Master’s degrees in STEM-related fields was far lower than those receiving Bachelor’s degrees. As the report puts it, “female participation in STEM fields in higher education varies by country, with females often concentrated in certain disciplines, and their participation falling as the level of education increases.”

This trend continued in the workplace, where women held a statistically non-proportional number of senior STEM-related positions. Even looking simply at the number of Nobel Laureates in STEM fields is illustrative. “Out of 199 laureates in Physics, 169 in Chemistry, and 207 in Medicine, there were only two female laureates in physics, four in chemistry, and 11 in medicine between 1901 and 2014 (Nobelprize.org, 2014).”

The report also developed a number of recommendations for increasing women’s representation in STEM-related fields throughout Asia.  In particular, it calls for gender-responsive education and labor policies from governments, gender-responsive teaching strategies, scholarship programs, and improved support programs and initiatives for female STEM professionals.

Noting that there were also a number of positive signs, such as the shrinking gender gap in learning achievement in math and science, the study concludes that, “if women are to stand alongside men as equal contributors to the building of just, peaceful and prosperous societies, they must be ensured the equal opportunity to learn in all areas, including STEM.”

Read the full UNESCO report here

Thai Students Win 6 Medals at the 2015 International Math Olympiads

The 56th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) contest was held in Chiang Mai from July 4th to July 16th to celebrate Princess Maja Chakri Sirindhorn’s 60th birthday. The event was organized by Chiang Mai University, the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST), the Center for Promotion of Mathematics in Thailand under the Royal Patronage, and the Promotion of Academic Olympiads and Development of Science Education Foundation, under the Princess of Naradhiwas’ Patronage.

The Thai team won six medals (2 gold, 3 silver, and 1 bronze) and finished in in 12th place out of 577 contesters from 104 participating countries. This contest marked the first time the IMO has been held in Thailand. The next Olympiad will be held in Hong Kong in 2016.

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Upcoming Events

  • During August, the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST) STEM festival will be held in Korat on August 16-18. The festival will feature events for students and teachers, such as teacher trainings, conferences on education, science exhibitions and activities, and student competitions.  At the STEM festival, the Chevron Enjoy Science Project will host a workshop and a conference.
  • The Chevron Enjoy Science Project will host an MOU signing ceremony with Khon Kean University on August 28th, and with Songkhla Rajabhat University on September 17th. Over the next five years, both universities will cooperate with the Chevron Enjoy Science Project to develop teachers by training them to use inquiry-based teaching methodologies in the classroom.

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